Translated to mean Sun City, Cité Soleil is a densely populated slum area in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Originally started as a shanty town in 1958 to house workers for a sugar factory, it has since grown to inhabit 300,000 people. Several gangs control various areas within the slum that has few formal businesses, few hospitals and only one government-run school. Cité Soleil is the largest slum in the Western Hemisphere and is regarded as one of the most dangerous places on Earth.
Daily life in the slum consists of no electricity or source of fresh water. Healing Haiti, a Minneapolis based organization, runs a water distribution program in Cité Soleil. It is the only source of free, clean, safe water for the locals.
I’m walking through Cité Soleil, the largest slum in the Western Hemisphere located in Haiti, one of the poorest places on Earth. Trash litters the streets and dirty stagnant rainwater is often used as latrines. The sun pulsates directly overhead, bleaching the blue sky to a blinding white. Sweat droplets race down my spine and pool at my lower back. Children dressed in rags – or for some, in nothing at all – play a spirited game of soccer with a half-inflated ball.
I snap a picture of a group of rambunctious kids, only to have eager young hands grab at my camera to see the image captured on my screen. The novelty of the reproduction fades and most dart off between the shanty houses. One remains, diligently pointing at each face on the screen, as if ticking them off in his head. He stops at the last one. His own. He lets out a burst of pure, innocent, giggling glee and scampers off. Alone, I realize that for people who have next to nothing, a mirror is an unattainable luxury. This child only meets his reflection by process of elimination. For he knows which ones are his friends and which one is the stranger.
I am struck dumb. For I never realized a person could walk through life without knowing his own physical self.
Suddenly, my purpose in life shifted. No longer would I be content with simply photographing far off lands & sharing these images with the Western world. I now needed to foster connections within these pocket-sized moments of humanity. Between the subject &
myself, the subject & the audience. And most importantly, between the subject & himself.
To license this work for editorial, creative, or other uses, click on the OZMO logo above.
This will take you to the Ozmo website where you can review the cost and license for the photographs in this exhibit.
You will need to create an account with both Amazon payments and with the Ozmo website as described on the Ozmo website.